How Eddie Hearn Made Matchroom Sport into Boxing Heavyweight

Cheeky British Entrepreneur is bringing back the sweet science by punching harder as an advocate and embracing his role as sport’s latest hero and villain.

by Justin BernbaumForbes staff

Iside At the Hilton Syon Park hotel on another overcast London day in July, Eddie Hearn gathered the media about what he’s billing for Britain’s next big boxing event. It was a rematch in August between two-time heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua and former British boxing champion Dillian White (a few days after this story was published in the August/September issue of USA Today). Forbes Whyte magazine was replaced by Robert Helenius for failed drug testing.) But Hearn couldn’t help thinking ahead. Notice former heavyweight contender Derek Chisora ​​a few feet away. So he knocks down a YouTube interview with another boxer, Fabio Wardley. “What about you two?” Listen to the joke until the pair show unexpected interest and the wheels start spinning. It’s not a blockbuster race. But no limelight is too small or too big for boxing’s all-time advertising machine.

Hearn, 44, loves to act. He pushed the boundaries of Matchroom Sport, a family-run company, to unprecedented heights. Forbes Estimates posted for fiscal year 2023 (ending June 30) were $365 million in revenue and $60 million in net profit. which he has been leading since 2012 from a small enterprise to a global brand. Boxing now accounts for more than half ($235 million) of Matchroom Sport’s estimated annual sales and cash flow of nearly $20 million. It is a player who just made a profit in America. and appearing in new markets such as the Middle East

His father Barry never expected it to be the same kind of success that the old Hearn founded the company in 1982 with just £100, starting with just £100 and focusing on snooker. Later darts and other minor sports, Barry has put together a respectable promotional business that is pulling in about $1 million out of $10 million in revenue when Eddie joins Matchroom in 2000. 12 years later, when Eddie Dee first approached his father with a drastic plan to blow up the company’s boxing venture. The entire company earned less ($7 million net earnings profit of $46 million) than it is today. “I’ve always had dreams,” says 75-year-old Barry, “but Eddie showed me another level.”

Matchroom has given new life to a sport that many believe is dormant or dying. over the past decade Boxing found itself a cultural foundation of mixed martial arts in the UFC, far removed from 1974’s “Rumble in the Jungle” when Muhammad Ali’s knockout George Foreman drew big numbers. With a global audience of over 1 billion viewers and an inflation-adjusted gross of $600 million, UFC’s bloody octagonal fight, streamlined championship belt. And the charismatic fighter continues to appeal to young fans, so much so that media conglomerate Endeavor spent just over $4 billion to acquire the property in 2016. When merged with WWE later this year, the value will be $21,000. million dollars publicly traded entity

Meanwhile, Matchroom produced more than 3,000 hours of programming last year across 12 sports, including 30 fight nights. Hearn has promoted some of boxing’s biggest stars, including Joshua and Canelo Alvare. Long-time pound-for-pound champion And instead of going the traditional broadcast and pay-per-view route, in 2018 Hearn turned to hay producers. He signed an eight-year deal with fledgling streaming service DAZN. At the time, the deal was estimated to total $1 billion. That’s four times the value of Matchroom’s previous deal with Sky Sports, and like UFC chairman Dana White, Hearn wears boots on the ground with every step. Serves as the human megaphone for every fight Matchroom promotes.

Still, Hearn was thinking big. Why put Matchroom under 100% family ownership when he could expand to the goal of an IPO? After recent negotiations to sell its minority stake to CVC Capital for a reported value of about $900 million, Hearn said Matchroom received calls from several other private equity firms.

“The hardest thing about having a successful father Especially the father who has an outstanding personality and character. is to try to reach the level or do better than him,” says Hearn. “So the only way for me to see myself as a success or a winner is to take the company to where he has never been before. ”

That wasn’t always Hearn’s ambition. He grew up in Essex, north east of London. He enjoys the spoils of his father’s work. whether spending the weekend at a boxing match or picking up kids from school in a white Matchroom limousine. He enjoys playing cricket and rugby. Scholars take a back seat to the extent that Barry offers to bribe his son after Eddie fails his exams at Brentwood, a luxury private school that has been around since 1550.

after high school Hearn chose to go to work instead of going to college. He wrote to dozens of sports management companies, landed his first job and subsequently failed to find another at nearly double his wages. In 2000, Hearn started promoting golf under the Matchroom brand, and then came poker. to That became one of the company’s biggest profit centers during the Texas dominance mid-month frenzy.

Hearn’s entire career path changed when, at the 2009 World Series of Poker, he met former Olympic gold medalist and heavyweight contender Audley Harrison, who was desperate for a second chance in the ring. Hearn agreed to a promotion for him and eventually won the heavyweight title. Harrison lost, but another boxer soon demanded the same attention. Despite his father’s skepticism, in 2012 Hearn agreed an exclusive broadcast deal with Sky Sports. David Itskowitch, former COO of Oscar de la Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, said, “There’s a little asterisk. People say Eddie got a deal because of his father’s relationship with Sky. And he did very well.”

Of course, when you change the silver spoon you were born into gold. You also have the opportunity to make many enemies along the way. especially in boxing For example, before announcing the DAZN deal, Hearn boldly announced that Matchroom would take over esports in the United States. Jokingly saying that it will only take three months.

“When I went to America The strategy is to quickly upset people. Build fame, build buzz, build interest,” Hearn says. “I want to be a hero in terms of the time and sacrifice I’ve made for the sport of boxing. But at the same time I have no problem being a villain.”

Either way Hearn is in a good position for the next phase of boxing. The roughly $440 million U.S. market is expected to grow 3.4% through 2027, according to IBIS World, but he is thinking globally, looking to championships in the Middle East and Asia in exchange for site fees.

“One day I’m going to stop boxing,” he said, “but the problem is that boxing eats you. And if I don’t let it consume me We will not be as dominant as we are.”

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